A family has cherished every second of Father’s Day with their dad this year because he may not be there to celebrate it next year.
Gemma Lyon and her daughters Bella, 14, and Florence, five, took extra care of Alex, 32, and gave him his favourite breakfast of egg and bacon sandwiches and a Leicester City football shirt.
Alex was diagnosed with a grade 4 glioblastoma in January. The brain tumour is the most common aggressive brain tumour in adults and has an average prognosis of 12-18 months.
His wife Gemma, 36, a recruitment manager from Leicester, East Midlands, told the Daily Mail: “Father’s Day will be so emotional this year”
“Due to this cruel disease we never know if it will be the ‘last’ of family occasions. We will fill it with smiles and laughs making memories for the girls and treating Alex like the hero he is to them.”
In 2010, Gemma was a single parent with Bella, then aged three, when she and Alex got together after being friends for six months on Facebook, after bumping into each other on nights out.
They became a “package” and went everywhere together.
Their nightmare started in November 2020 when Alex began suffering with terrible headaches, which worried Gemma because his mum had died of a brain tumour in 2019.
Gemma continued: “The following month, he started vomiting – he’d wake up in the morning and had to rush to the loo to be sick. I tried to get him to go to the doctors and he just got tetchy with me and insisted he’d be OK.”
“It kept going through my mind that Alex may have a brain tumour – but how could it happen a third time?,’ Gemma said.
Gemma finally persuaded him to go to the GP in January which didn’t reveal any issue.
Then the day came on January 27 which changed their lives and Alex was told he had. brain tumour after a visit to A&E at Leicester Royal Infirmary
Gemma said: “At 9.30pm, Alex rang me to say he’d had a scan and said, ‘I’ve got a brain tumour. I think I might need to stay in’.”
“He sounded very matter-of-fact but I think he was in shock and I felt dreadful I couldn’t be with him.
“I broke down and cried my eyes out for an hour and then I rang Alex’s dad and three brothers to break the news.”
A week after his diagnosis, Alex had a five-and-half hour operation at Queen’s Medical Centre in Nottingham to remove a large amount of his lime-sized tumour.
He came home from hospital after surgery “a very different person” which no-one prepares you for said Gemma
She told the Daily Mail : “From being placid and laid back, he can be very angry and snappy, due to the part of the brain his tumour is located.
“He’ll never remember and ask ‘Have I got angry again?’ when he sees that I’m upset, and apologise. He can get very confused and has terrible memory problems.”
As Gemma grieves for the person Alex used to be, she and her girls have had to adjust to how the husband and father they adore is today.
Gemma had told Florence Daddy wasn’t very well and was in hospital but knew Bella would want to know more.
“You just never expect to wake up one day and be faced with being a young widow” said Gemma.
“Alex is here now and I am extremely proud of him. We all are and that’s what we focus on, cherishing each second together. Love helps me to cope – my love for Alex and our girls gets me through.’
The family are sharing their story to help The Brain Tumour Charity raise awareness.
Eve Kelleher, The Brain Tumour Charity’s head of services, said: ‘We send Gemma and her daughters our warmest wishes for celebrating Father’s Day with Alex.
“We know Father’s Day can be such a difficult time for so many families affected by brain tumours and, like Gemma, many more people are joining our online communities for support.”